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Tank Car Derails, Homes Evacuated

January 8, 1987

TAYLOR, Pa. (AP) _ A rail car carrying a highly flammable liquefied gas derailed Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of 2,700 people, authorities said.

The car, along with two others carrying harmless loads, jumped the tracks at the Delaware and Hudson Railway Co. yards in Taylor, a small borough outside of Scranton, at about 11 a.m., authorities said.

A small amount of the chemical, methylacetylene propadiene, leaked from a vent cap briefly after the derailment, but it presented little danger, said Taylor Mayor David Nokes Sr.

The danger will come when crews try to put the car back on the tracks with two huge cranes, Nokes said.

The procedure was delayed while crews waited for a cap to secure the opening used to fill the tanker, Nokes said.

About a third of the borough’s residents, all living within about a half- mile of the yards, were evacuated, Nokes said. All but 135 were staying with relatives, and the others were sent to a local school, he said.

Fire Chief Harry Armstrong said the chemical, used as an industrial welding gas, could flash to the source ″very easily.″ It is listed in The Condensed Chemical Dictionary as toxic by inhalation.

In a fire, the tanker ″could explode like a torpedo,″ Armstrong said.

Experts had been unable late Wednesday to determine the cause of the derailment, Nokes said.

The rail cars, en route to Maryland from Canada, were traveling through the yards at about 3 mph when the derailment occurred, authorities said.

At another derailment site, in Emerson, Ark., a tanker car containing deadly bromine chloride was uprighted Wednesday, and about 550 evacuated residents began returning to their homes, Mayor Joe Mullins said.

The evacuation was ordered Wednesday while a crew worked to upright the car and two other tankers, which derailed Tuesday night.

Bromine chloride, used as an industrial disinfectant, can be fatal, said Ken Sibley, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services in Columbia County.

The car containing the chemical was intact, he said.

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